I was born and raised in Scotland, but at the tender age of 19 I set off across the pond to Canada, where I forged a fabulous new life for myself. That forging took all of 17 years and then I was off again, this time to the sweltering heat of Atlanta. That is where I reside till this day, but even though I have now been gone for longer than I lived in my native Scotland, I still get little twinges of homesickness that only a good pint and a shepherd's pie will cure. There is not a lot of call for Scottish establishment's here in Georgia, except for The Tilted Kilt, which is actually more like a Hooters for Highlander's. So I am forced to connect with my Celtic brothers, and instead seek out an Irish pub, of which there are plenty.
The problem is that not all those bars are created equal, which means that you have a 50/50 chance of having a pretty horrible experience, and that's exactly what happened to my wife and I recently. My wife is a Regional Chef, which means that she spends a fair amount of time on the road. When she is out and about she always keeps an eye open for a new place for us to try, and just last week she came home bubbling with excitement, spilling the details of an Irish pub that she has passed on the way home. We could barely contain ourselves, and with the weekend approaching we made plans to pay a visit.
Pub #1 - The Dublin Pub, Snellville, GA.
As we pulled into the parking lot of the Dublin, I was truly taken by how traditionally Irish the place looked on the outside. Hopes were raised, only to be dashed as we set foot inside the door. The place looked very hastily put together, a mishmash of Irish beer signs adorning walls that was painted a rather putrid color of green. The place hadn't been open long, so we wrote the interior off as being probably unfinished as we settled ourselves at the bar. The waitress, who looked no older than 12, appeared and immediately informed us that they were out of Guinness. WHAT?? An Irish pub without Guinness is like a Scotsman without a temper, of which my own special brand was beginning to flare at this point. Turns out there were several beers that were out, and it may actually have been quicker for the poor girl to tell us what they did have. As we ordered the drinks, the chef comes rolling out of the freezer carrying a stockpile of frozen, boxed foods that he took with him to the kitchen.
Undaunted, we ordered a batch of wings which, despite taking 35 minutes to be made, were actually very good. With things starting to look up I ordered the shepherd's pie, and was immediately brought back to earth with a loud thump. Drier than a camel's hoof, and equally as tasty, the pie was a disaster, as was Penny's Irish beer banger. Enough was enough, it was time to go, but the day was still young, and so we decided to hit another Irish pub that we had been to several times before and knew was fantastic.
Pub #2 - Mac McGee's, Decatur, GA.
A short 20 minute drive took us to our favorite little town in Georgia, and a pub that is everything an Irish establishment should be. Cozy and warm, with service, food, and beer that will always bring a smile to your face. We shared a delicious cheese plate, as well as a $30 shot of Royal Lochnagar whiskey; it was penny's birthday, and with Burn's night right around the corner, it was an extravagance that seemed somehow fitting. The place was busy, and the music was just right, setting a perfect mood for all the happy drinkers. It should have been enough to make us forget about our earlier experience, but with every passing belch, that shepherd's pie did it's best to jog my memory.